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Friday, May 14, 2021

Bellingham Brings the Beans

Reilly Hannigan grinds espresso beans for a latte at the Black Drop Coffee House on Saturday, July 25.   Photo by Alexandra Bartick
Reilly Hannigan grinds espresso beans for a latte at the Black Drop Coffee House on Saturday, July 25. Photo by Alexandra Bartick

While the coffee grinds in the background, the smell of sweet, smooth espresso envelops The Black Drop Coffeehouse. Located in downtown Bellingham, The Black Drop provides customers with locally roasted and organically grown coffee beans and original in-house baked goods.

The shop has a small staff that strives to be extremely knowledgeable about where their coffee comes from, how it is roasted and the science behind how espresso works, said Stephanie Oppelaar, the current owner of The Black Drop and former Western student.

As of Friday, July 10, a brand new line of in-house baked goods are available in addition to The Black Drop’s local coffee. Oppelaar is the sole baker and creator of the baked goods, and many recipes are gluten-free and vegan.

“We’re super excited about it and it is totally brand new,” Oppelaar said.

Every day The Black Drop has three different types of vegan muffins available that are new to the baking line: blueberry, apple-cinnamon-pecan streusel and banana-poppy-seed almond, Oppelaar said. A variety of scones, savory and sweet, are also available.

“I make some pretty bomb cinnamon rolls on Saturday mornings until they are gone,” she said.

All of these baked goods are Oppelaar’s recipes, said Kim Vonsee, a Black Drop employee of about seven years.

“It’s kind of difficult to find vegan and gluten-free stuff that actually tastes really good,” Vonsee said. “And she’s really great at it.”

For a healthy gluten-free, dairy-free and no added sweetener option, Oppelaar created a breakfast item of chia seed almond milk pudding with fresh fruit, with 21 grams of protein in it.

“It’s an insane healthy delicious breakfast that will fill you up,” Oppelaar said.

Staff members said they are eager to hear feedback from customers for their new line of baked goods in order to continuously improve their recipes.

Zayd Humsy, a sophomore at Western and a frequent customer at The Black Drop, said he thinks the new baked goods will go over well with the kind of specific Bellingham cliental that the Black Drop attracts.

The staff tastes the baked goods frequently. Vonsee said they have been satisfied so far, but are always looking for ways to improve.

“We’re still taking feedback from customers and not being afraid to be like ‘hey, if there is something really wrong with this for whatever reason then please tell us,’” Vonsee said. “We are still finding our footing and figuring out how to do it efficiently and do it consistently.”

The original owner of The Black Drop, Alex Arc, sold the coffee house to Oppelaar in 2009, but he remains involved as the coffee roaster for The Black Drop. His coffee roasting company is called Maniac Roasting and is located off of Franklin Street in Bellingham.

Arc orders high quality beans from Atlas Coffee Importers in Seattle, Oppelaar said.

Vonsee said that the staff of The Black Drop has a close relationship with the people who roast the coffee.

“They’re our friends,” Vonsee said. “We feel like we can always go to them if we have questions about how anything is roasted or where it comes from.”

“Everyone that works here are super nerds about coffee,” Oppelaar said.

“We are giant nerds and we like to have fun and so we also create weird stuff like the ‘Fat Elvis’ which is a banana-peanut butter mocha,” Vonsee said.

Every Friday The Black Drop gives away doppios to any customer who asks. A doppio is a two shot espresso drink served in a preheated demitasse, a small coffee cup.

Oppelaar said the doppio drink allows people to taste espresso the way it was meant to be tasted.

Vonsee said they enjoy giving the free doppios out of Fridays because they like espresso and and like other people to like espresso.

“We like that bright flowery undertone to the espresso with that really buttery-caramel taste.”

Humsy said it is the best coffee he has ever had. “It’s not only just the coffee, which is amazing from the basic drip coffee all the way to the six dollar expensive coffees, but it is also has a great environment for a coffee shop with a great staff working there.”

Humsy said his “go to” drink at The Black Drop is a hot coffee drink called “The Cuban.” He discovered the drink when his roommate asked an employee which drink has the most caffeine for the least amount of money and “The Cuban,” an espresso drink that is lightly sweetened as it is brewed, was the result.

The coffee house hosts an event every year called Zombies vs. Survivors to help raise money to support local Bellingham businesses. This annual event, which has a large community base and occupies a large part of downtown Bellingham, was first created six years ago by Oppelaar. This year was the second year they partnered with The Bellingham Department of Parks and Recreation, Oppelaar said.

“It is a giant downtown-wide water balloon fight, where people dress up like zombies,” Oppelaar said. “This year we had over 300 hundred participants. And it’s crazy. It’s amazing.”

They try to hold the event at the end of the academic school year, either the last week of May or the first week of June. The most recent Zombies vs. Survivors event last Spring was the biggest success so far, with at least 28 local businesses that sponsored the event and donated around 900 dollars’ worth of prizes for winning participants.

On one chosen Saturday of every other month, The Black Drop hosts a board game night during the off hours of the coffee house. From 7-11 p.m. the shop is packed with customers playing old and new board games.

“It’s a really fun community building thing that I’m really excited to be a part of,” Vonsee said.

The shop partners with The Comics Place who loans them board games for the Saturday events, Vonsee said.

Oppelaar said she believes many Western students are apprehensive to leave campus and that there are a lot of businesses to explore in the Bellingham community.

“There is a community that is waiting here with open arms for people who are like-minded and want to take part in something while they’re here,” Oppelaar said. “Leave campus, get out, come see all the amazing things that Bellingham has to offer.”

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